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Friday, April 16, 2021

Public Body Could Not Withhold Entire Action Plan Under FOIA

In 2018, Lucy Parsons Labs (LPL) submitted a FOIA request to the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office  seeking a copy of the City’s 150 page “action plan” regarding the City’s public response to the verdict in the highly publicized murder trial of a former CPD officer. The City denied the entire action plan, citing FOIA exemption 7(1)(v), which exempts:

“[v]ulnerability assessments, security measures, and response policies or plans that are designed to identify, prevent, or respond to potential attacks upon a community’s population or systems, facilities, or installations, the destruction or contamination of which would constitute a clear and present danger to the health or safety of the community, but only to the extent that disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of the measures or the safety of the personnel who implement them or the public. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(v). 

In its denial, the City argued that the entire action plan was “designed to respond to a potential attack upon the community’s population, including but not limited to details regarding the deployment of specialized resources, call numbers, critical staff positioning and procedures for the handling and preparedness for operations and emergency procedures.” The LPL filed a lawsuit asking the court to order the City to release non-exempt portions of the action plan. The circuit court ruled in the City's favor finding the entire action plan to be exempt from disclosure under FOIA exemption 7(1)(v). LPL appealed. 

In Lucy Parsons Labs v. The City of Chicago Mayor’s Office, the appellate court ruled in favor of LPL, finding that portions of the action plan could be subject to release. Although the appellate court acknowledged that the City’s detailed affidavits were sufficient to establish that portions of the City’s action plan were properly exempt under 7(1)(v) because disclosure could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the effectiveness of the plan, since the action plan contained a mix of both exempt and non-exempt information, the City failed to show that the non-exempt portions of the action plan were properly withheld from disclosure.

Post Authored by Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink


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